Can an employer deduct recruitment fees and/or training fees from the unpaid wages of a departing member of staff?
Yes it can, according to the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Cleeve Link v Bryla.
In this case, Ms Bryla, a Polish National, was recruited in Poland, at a cost of £400 to the company. She was also provided with several days’ training at the start of her employment in the UK.
Her contract stated that, if she left:
- her employer could deduct the costs of her recruitment, bringing her to the UK, and training, from any money due to her;
- if termination happened after 6 months, this amount would be reduced by 1/6th for each additional month of employment, up to 1 year in total.
The legal issue
As Ms Bryla had signed up to these terms in her contract of employment, the issue was whether they were void because they amounted to a ‘penalty clause’. Essentially money can only be recovered in this way where this a genuine pre-estimate of losses. In this case, the EAT held that this was not a penalty clause, so was enforceable.
Implications for businesses
This case will obviously be of great interest to employers who can spend a considerable amount on recruitment (the legal industry being a good case in point!).
Interestingly, employment agencies are not allowed to charge work seekers for finding them work (except in the modelling and entertainment industries). This is somewhat at odds with the position taken by the EAT. This should not stop employers from putting appropriate provisions in their contract at this stage, however, and seeing how the law develops.
We are experts at contractual drafting, and would be delighted to discuss putting similar provisions in place for you.